By the Waters of Babylon Questions and Answers
by Stephen Vincent Benét

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List at least three symbols in "By the Waters of Babylon" and explain what they mean.

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Probably my favorite symbolic image from this story is the Place of the Gods. I like this symbolic image because it changes its symbolism at the end of the story. For most of the story, the Place of the Gods (New York) is a symbol of man's destruction and destructive capabilities. While exploring the city, John learns that the "gods" had great technology, but unfortunately they lost control of the technology and destroyed a great deal of the human population. Once John learns all of this, the Place of the Gods becomes symbolic of knowledge, potential, and a general rebirth of civilization.

Nevertheless, we make a beginning. It is not for the metal alone we go to the Dead Places now— there are the books and the writings. They are hard to learn. And the magic tools are broken — but we can look at them and wonder. At least, we make a beginning. And, when I am chief priest we shall go beyond the great river. We shall go to the Place of the Gods . . .

East is also symbolic in this story....

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